Sunday, February 10. 2013
Taka had the covers ripped from her. She groaned, goose pimples running across her skin. Last night’s revelries hit her slowly, making her head pound. She heard people moving in a world she didn’t care about.
Taka’s eyes fluttered open, just in time for the water. Cold! She yowled, and kicked out. Odette stumbled and her empty bucket clattered to the floor. It rolled away on the bare floorboards and knocked against the screen blocking dawn’s approaching light. The screen was promptly moved to one side. Taka snarled uncertainly.
“A miserable excuse for a demon,”
Sibyl stood in the doorway. Tall and regal, she was dressed in winter finery, her face the colour of death. Taka wrung water from her hair and flicked it. A fan clicked open and deflected the droplets.
“Wash and dress her. They will be gone before the sun has finished waking,”
Sibyl said in her imperious tone. Then she was gone. Odette picked up another bucket.
Sibyl stood by the door. Situated furthest from the nobility the furnishings were sparse. Old mats littered the floor and battered oil lamps provided scarce heat. Still, it was alive this morning with the passage of servants. They carried packs and bundles, politely ignoring her. She returned their courtesy. Whenever a servant slid open the door, frigid air flooded in. By the time Taka appeared the corridor was freezing. Taka waved a parasol cheerfully. Sibyl was silently impressed. Odette had even managed to pin that untameable hair.
“You did not harm her I trust,” said Sibyl in greeting.
Taka made a face, flouncing around the corridor in her fur lined dress. “She’s gone to change out of her wet clothes,”
Sibyl gestured to the door. A servant opened it automatically, the morning breeze washed over them.
“Why do we have to be up this early?” complained Taka, lurching into the gathering dawn.
Sibyl lifted her dress off the ground and stepped after her. “Because, dear sister, we have failed,”
They made their way down the frost limned path to the house’s central yard. A great crowd, horses, men and servants milled in equal measure.
“So, can we die or what?” Taka opened the parasol and waved it in the air. Its shaft began to glow, like it was made from a stick of light.
Sibyl paused, fan pressed to her lips “What is that?”
“I found it,” Taka protested. The parasol stuck out like a sore thumb.
Sibyl’s tone did not change “Dispose of it.”
The glow shifted colour, slowly it suffused with aquamarine.
“If we get to start tomorrow morning how I want,” said Taka, one eye on the pretty colours.
There were shouts from the yard beyond. Time moved on without them.
“Your word is your bond,” Taka reminded Sibyl.
The fan clicked shut. Sibyl nodded.
An army gathered in the courtyard. Horses bucked beneath their armour. Flags fluttered, hanging off the backs of men. They were pretty, though something seemed missing. Servants hurried back and forth, presenting bundles. The warriors armed themselves with sword or spear and bow. A precious few bore matchlocks, revealed briefly from lacquer cases. Some men practiced, some chatted, some merely waited. It all seemed a bit pointless to Taka. If you wanted to kill someone go and do it. Waiting around dragged the whole thing out. She stood on the sidelines by Sibyl, parasol stabbed into the ground. They shivered, though Sibyl pretended not to. They were positioned far from the growing army yet a black warhorse rode by them. From its back glared Lord Hyun, decked out in armour. Taka thought him wearing a mask until his scowl twitched. Sibyl bowed to him. To Taka’s amazement he returned the acknowledgement. He rode out towards the centre and bellowed orders. Taka returned to scanning the crowd and spotted a reason for coming.
He was young, barely a man. He had no helmet leaving loose locks to spill over his shoulders. He practiced with a spear, testing its balance and heft. When done he held it to the naked sky. Then his eye caught hers. They stared at each other, transfixed. Taka searched for a ribbon and roughly pulled it free. Her hair spilled out to one side. The young warrior mounted his horse and rode towards them. Sibyl glanced between them.
“May I ask what you are doing?”
She was ignored.
The horse pranced before the women, unwilling to settle. Sibyl felt the eyes of others turn, especially Hyun, leaning forward to watch.
The warrior lowered his spear “My lady, I ride to battle, perhaps to death. I beg you to bestow your favour that I might live to return it,”
Taka shook her head, eyes unfocused. “Ride out in this battle, young lord, and you shall not return,”
Fear gripped the warrior’s heart “Is there no hope of victory?”
The woman smiled with a great sadness “Far from it. You alone will decide your clan’s fate, and your own,”
He hesitated only a moment. “May I make my ancestors proud,” He offered the tip of his spear, she bound her ribbon about it.
Sibyl gently brushed an eyebrow. Her fan opened and shut repeatedly, clicking each time.
“What was that?”
Taka smiled playfully “Now it’s pretty,”
Sibyl sighed “A little more warning perhaps. Indeed, any at all would be a marvel,”
Taka patted her on the shoulder “You do your thing, I do mine,”
A roar drowned Sibyl’s response. The soldiers thrust their spears to the sky. It was time for war.
Wednesday, January 23. 2013
I broke the headphone jack again. Worse still, my years of IT support have afforded me an arrogance in my actions. So as I was dissassembling I damaged the keyboard connector port on the motherboard. This post brought to you without access to the letter i or numbers 1, 2 and 4.
The 8943g has gotten a good two years of life so there's no shame in retiring it. Also unlike my XPS it can continue on as a support model. I might even stick it on a rack as a makeshift server. Now let's take a moment to remember it at its finest.
...Yeah, no. It's just a bloody computer.
Sunday, January 20. 2013
Adapted from a Korean Folktale
In a time many ages ago there lived the farmer Song. No house was more respected than Song’s and his two sons. However Song had one desire his years could not settle, secretly he wished for a daughter. So he journeyed mountain paths to a forgotten shrine and prayed there. “Please I long only for a daughter, even if she is a fox!” Soon after his wife fell pregnant and nine months later gave birth to a beautiful girl. Song doted on his beloved child and left his sons to tend the herds. Years passed and his daughter grew hale and strong. That was until one evening when song’s dutiful sons reported to him the disappearance of some cows. Song scolded them for being negligent and set his eldest to watch them all night.
In the morning the son reported trembling. “Father, I wish I had not seen it but I saw our sister creep out in the night and into the cattle shed. I followed her there and saw by the moonlight her tear the heart from a cow! She ate it raw and bloody and when she was done she stuffed the cow into a seed!”
Song refused to believe such madness “You are a bad son. Not only do you betray your duty by falling asleep but you dishonour your sister by recounting nightmares! Do not darken my door again,”
And so the eldest son was banished. Song set then his second son to guard. In the night another cow died and Song asked for his son’s report in the morning. Having seen the fate of his brother the younger son said only
“Father, I saw my sister pass in the night but she did not go near the shed. When I looked in a cow had fallen, perhaps it saw the moon and died of fright,”
Song was satisfied and ordered his son to close the shed from the sky.
Dispirited and disinherited the elder son wandered. He could not abandon his family but he did not know what to do. His travels brought him to an old temple and there came upon a monk, warding off a demon. He rushed to the monk’s aid and afterward pleaded “Master please help me, a great evil has bewitched my family,”
The monk heard his story and took him on as a novice. For a year and a day the monk trained him in the righteous ways. Finally the son could stay no longer, he gathered wards and potions and left, his master giving him one final advice.
“To kill a fox, you must first trap it,”
The son returned home but found it not as he remembered. His village had fallen far. His friends hid behind boarded windows. His family’s house was dark and the fields lay abandoned. Feeling a great foreboding the son passed through the door. There were no lamps, only the glow of his sister’s eyes.
“Welcome home brother, I have prepared a feast for you,”
The brother was wary but he could not refuse his sister’s hospitality. The food was good and the wine plenty but the son could not shake an illness in his stomach. Finally he excused himself and made ready for bed. Using his teacher’s lessons he purified himself before retiring and drew protections on his own skin.
In the night he awoke, with a great pain in his chest. It was his sister crouched atop him.
“Shh, dear brother,” she crooned “Just one more and I’ll be human.”
She reached into his chest as if flesh was water. However there came a great sizzling noise and she leapt off of him in fright. The brother staggered from his bed and ran into the kitchen seeking a weapon. The moon had come up and the brother beheld the remains of his family. Their chests had been opened as if by a child’s hands. Around the carcasses sat plates heavy with meat and cups filled with blood. He heard a growl and turned to see his sister behind him. Her eyes were aglow and there was fur behind her ears.
He fled from the house and fled up the mountain paths. Always she was a step behind, her laughter a horrible barking. She hunted him to a forgotten shrine, guarded by a stone archway. There was but one entrance and the brother thought himself lost. But his master's advice came to him and he heaved mightily against the stone arch. It cracked to the patter of feet and fell upon a form shrieking. Snatching up a bit of rubble the brother dashed it upon his sister's head. The woman died away until only a fox lay there. The brother buried it and left it to be forgotten.
Monday, December 31. 2012
You know, when I go back over the year it turns out I've done a lot less gaming than I thought. It may feel like I've spent the year locked in a dark room cursing the economics of chickpeas. However, on careful review it seems I went outside at some point. Anyway, let's see what was high and what was meh this year.
Bastion, A late entry which really deserves a full review. Bastion had ups and downs but the competent gameplay and touching story were brought down by that bloody narrator.
DarksidersI/II, I know I didn't review these but I literally played them for 20 minutes and went, nope, not for me.
Deponia, It certainly wasn't all trash but Deponia was meh in its characters, story, some of the puzzles.
FTL, I still hate FTL for not letting me get any of the special ships. the game was fun and hi-jinx but it was just a roguelike at the end of the day and a rather limited one. Compare with Stone Soup.
Avernum, The new one was pretty much the same game as Avernum and Exile I was but every time Vogel adds just enough to make it fresh again. He even has characterization now!
XCOM: Enemy Unknown, proves once again that no peace-loving alien race is safe from the predations of humanity. We're so good we don't even send armies anymore, just four to six guys.
Warlock: Master of the Arcane, Fantasy Civ as it was meant to be. Fall from Heaven surpasses it in terms of lore and depth but Warlock's gameplay goes from strength to strength
And of course game of the year goes to Alice: Madness Returns. I love Alice platonically and from a safe distance. There's no way I'm going near that knife.
Monday, December 24. 2012
Vernon peered over the mirror. The docks were dead; the rain had driven them away. It trickled down the window randomly. His living room smelled of glue.
“So tell me about your mother,”
“No. I don’t want to talk about her,” his patient said from the couch.
He could see her glare in the mirror. Selme had so many glares. It was hard to tell them apart. He didn’t pay attention till it was too late. Wood snapped. The mast had broken in his fingers. He set down his half-built model and picked up tiny pliers. “Your father then?”
“He deserved to be taken,” his patient growled.
Carefully Vernon teased the broken mast from the little ship. He set it apart on a clear space and gauged the extent of the damage. The side had cracked slightly. “So, who’s your favourite author?”
“Do you know Gorgias?”
The question caught him off guard. In the mirror Selme was laid out on the couch. Her knee-length dress was all old-fashioned frills. She was looking at the crack in his ceiling.
“Who’s Gorgias?” he asked.
“A philosopher of course! He posited the theory of solipsistic creation,”
Vernon took the bait “And what was that?”
“That everything we create, literature, children, model ships, are reflections of ourselves. They are created solely that we might bask in their creation,”
“A rather bleak view,”
“What else could they be?”
“Well…” Vernon paused for thought, eyes fixed on the pieces he glued. “Children could be the result of biological impulse. An inbuilt behaviour that we rationalise after the fact,”
“And you called me bleak!”
“I’m sorry Selme,”
Rain spattered against the window indignantly.
“Why did you ask about authors?” Her question was tinged with suspicion.
“I was looking for formative influences. I want to try and build a picture of the world you perceive.”
“So you want to prejudge me based on my preferences,” She sounded exasperated.
It had sounded better in his head “I’m sorry. I did say I’m not a psychologist.”
Selme swung off the couch, righting her dress as her feet touched the ground. “We’re none of us meant for what we have to do. Can I have the medicines now?”
Vernon pulled open the second drawer from the top. “I think it might be good for you to visit a real doctor sometimes, just to be safe,”
The rustle of cloth signified her approach “And let them put their sick hands inside my head? At least wood is honest.”
Vernon drew a small bottle from the depths and counted out two pills. They were finish roughly. He'd only made them this morning. She held cash in her hand. Vernon turned away, leaving the pills on the counter.
“If you don’t mind-,”
“Yes, yes, could I show myself out and leave the money by the door,” She made an animal noise of frustration, then snatched up the pills.
“Why are the unemployed always so busy? Is it such hard work doing nothing?”
Vernon said nothing. He picked up his model and held it against the window. The waters were calm outside and he could imagine it riding the waves. Only when the door slammed did he sigh.
The newsstand sat at the corner of the square. Vernon watched it from the corner of his eye. There was no passing trade today. The old man was busy reading a paper. Vernon left him to it. He had one mission outside today. From afar the docks looked so peaceful. Carefully he picked his way along the edge. The closer you got to something the worse it looked. Water splashed the sides, slopping and slurping. You couldn’t see into its murky depths. Oblivious gulls bobbed on the waves, riding the death spasms of the ocean. If you were a bird could you be free? They might fly out down the coast or inland to the city, but only in search of food. Would they ever go to another country? Only if they had to. The birds had nothing. He marched right into a flock. They launched skyward, shrieking their contempt. Most wheeled about him for a while before turning out to sea.
Idyll’s had a customer. It wasn’t unusual. It was just unusual to wear a business suit on a Saturday. Maybe he was stuck here for the weekend. He was stuck in front of the deli counter now. The girl behind the till was perched, waiting for him to decide. Vernon busied himself down the back. He only needed the staples. Bread, butter, some more glue. White batch was bad for you but he picked it up anyway. It was when he went to the till the trouble started.
“Hey, hey buddy,”
Vernon turned. There was the business man. Close up there were three things wrong with him. A purple shirt, a white hat but worst of all was his false smile. It was better to look glum than to lie about it.
“Say, you look like a local, how's the cheese baguette?”
“Uh, I’ve never ordered from the deli counter here, sorry.” Strange really, the hat looked like a mask.
“Damn. You won’t believe this but I’ve been here half an hour trying to pick lunch.” The business man slouched back, like he was settling down for a long conversation.
Vernon exchanged a glance with the girl behind the till. “Really,”
“Yeah. I’m up in the new Telsin Block for the weekend helping with their projections,”
The girl frantically shook her head.
“Oh yeah. We got plans for this place. It’s going to be the new analytics centre of the Western hemisphere. The numbers we’ll put through the statisticians here would make your head spin.”
Vernon stared out the window and thought about ships.
“You look like you have a thing for numbers yourself. You a mathematician maybe?”
Vernon stirred slightly. “No.”
“Shame. Damn shame. They’re hiring you know. What line of work you in?”
Vernon stared at his feet. “I’ve got to get going,”
The girl rang up his items. He could never remember her name. Vernon looked back on his way out. The business man was still there, pulling the mask down over his face.
It wasn’t the biggest building along the docks. The banks were bigger, sprawling across campuses, growing like cancers. It was certainly a block though. From this side of the docks it squatted, daring someone to move it. The windows were all dark. The stone was dark. The stylish metal encasing half of it was dark. It put Vernon in mind of a beetle facing the sun. He wasn’t sure about analytics but he knew a differential from an integral. For a moment he fantasised about marching back into the newsagents, shaking the business man by the hand and asking for a contact number. It passed like all his fantasies. Unemployment couldn’t kill anyone. Vernon let his gaze fall. There was a dark fence around the block, behind it were dark bushes. Perhaps unemployment could kill the unemployed.
He manned his newsstand with the faithfulness of a soldier. Vernon crept up but it stealth did him no good. The sentry was always on duty. A toothy grin looked up from under its peaked cap, the old man put down his paper.
“Afternoon Mr. Vernon.”
“Afternoon Henry. How’s business.”
“Oh you know. Same old, same new,” Henry chuckled hoarsely. There were two bumps in his cap. They stuck out from his skull like war wounds.
“And how’s the wife?” Conversation with Henry was always relaxing.
“Still dead, Mr. Vernon.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,”
“I ain’t,” Henry gave another chuckle.
Vernon stamped his feet. Henry went back to paper. They had a script Henry and Vernon and it was short and sweet. With a red pen he circled a word on one page, and then drew an arrow linking it to another.
“Seen anyone from the Telsin Block?”
Henry was surprised to see Vernon still standing there. “The what?”
Vernon pointed. Henry looked from the building to Vernon. Slowly he lifted the pen and tapped his nose.
“Keep your head down, Mr Vernon. That's what I always say,”
Vernon nodded slowly. “Thank you Henry. Good luck with the business,”
Henry lifted his cap to wave Vernon off. Funny, how it looked like he had horns.
Vernon stood in his room. The bread and milk were put away. The glue was set on the desk. Everything was ready. The dark approached slowly. The day’s gloom slowly gave way. Rain blew against the window. Vernon didn’t pay attention. He stared into the mirror. Solipsism had been Narcissus' problem; he’d created an image and fallen in love. Vernon had the opposite problem. The discarded wrappers, the broken glass, the textured wood, he took it all in. In until he could bear it no longer. He tilted the mirror so he could see the room instead. It was better that way. He watched a while longer, until the sky grew dark, Then he set to work.
Sunday, December 16. 2012
Papau felt the shadow pass over. She hit the brush face first. An engine roared overhead. It was blissfully noisy. She couldn’t even hear the screams she knew were there. It was over quickly. They were left in a field of burning bushes.
“Up you worms!” Sergeant Morgan loomed large against the fires. His snout was a mess of burns. Papau wondered could anything kill him.
“Up!” His claws lashed the grass and someone yelped. Slowly the soldiers rose.
“Useless, whimpering dogs! Get moving!” Morgan thrust a claw towards the treeline.
“Sir, yes sir!” chirped someone behind Papau. It was Morgan's goblin servant. In its silly little helmet it marched to Morgan's side. He cuffed it, sending the thing tumbling from its feet. She clutched her rifle tighter.
It was a beautiful turquoise globe. Wispy clouds drifted across its surface, matched by the swell of gentle seas. If it had a name it had to be paradise. Gleaming amidst space, its southern continent was the brightest gem. A mighty jungle stretched from coast to coast. The inhabitants’ settlements blended with the trees, their temples rising above the canopy. From these holy perches songs had been sung of their blessings since the beginning of time. Morgan had designated the name of their civilisation 'Target Practice'
Continue reading "Charlie in the Bakers"
Tuesday, December 11. 2012
You all meet in a tavern. You get in one little fight. And suddenly you're scared. The magistrate's pronouncing you guilty of high treason. He's making up the sentence and your defence lawyer is eating a baby. You're to be subjected to the cruellest torment imaginable. Such is life in glorious Abyss.
It was a pretty good town. Booze, cheap succubi and best of all no Blood War. Now you're being marched through the wasteland of the Plain of Infinite Portals. At least they gave you back your weapons. The ruin of a thousand battles is scattered about. It was a pretty good wasteland. Post-apocalyptic even. You get to say goodbye before you're hurled into the pit. Finish the codex and you'll be free they said. Go to the bottom layer of the Abyss and come back they said. They were sniggering at the time. Twisting in midair you can make out the man-sized book being hurled in behind you. Its heavy metal casing twirls until it is falling directly above you. You're about to start a new life as a landing cushion.
It's planescape in Pathfinder!
To play in this game you will need:
A level five character, use !chargen three times and pick the best line! You HP is always max on the first die, rolled after
10,000 gold of equipment
A reason for their character to be in the Abyss
A friendly attitude towards your fellow players
A desire to explore the planes!
Exotic characters are welcome! Some of the party will be demons. Non-good is preferred due to starting location. Remember that just because we start in the Abyss doesn't mean we have to stay there! Your GM is so generous he has given you a free artifact!
The Abyssal Codex
Started by the Mad Monk Bazingo the Codex was to be a comprehensive guide to all the inhabitants of the Abyssal layers. Bazingo drunkenly insisted to his friends that the inhabitants of the Abyss could be categorized. Against their desperate pleas he began a dark work to prove he could win 5 gold. Bazingo summoned 666 succubi and crafted each page from their hides He beat the metal casing from steel melted down for the Blood War. The stitchings were done with quasit-gut with a needle made from a balor's claw. Bazingo soaked it in the blood of depraved cultists from the farthest reaches of the known multiverse for 6 hours, six minutes and six seconds. Then, just when he was about to pen the foreword a bunch of portals opened over his head and he was torn apart by vengeful tanar'ri. The book was taken by one of them as a curio. It has sat in the vaults of demon lords since, biding its time until it may be unleashed upon the Cosmos and classify it according to name, species and preferred habitat.
Sunday, December 9. 2012
"Daring intervention by unknown military forces in the United States prevents alien abductions."
The bit I love most about the new XCOM is undoubtedly the news ticker in the control room. Headlines like the above stream constantly, giving the world's reaction to your battles and the ongoing alien situation. Small touches like that bring you into the game world and make it feel alive. They're even enough to make you forgive XCOM's flaws. What flaws? Find out by clicking the continue button.
Continue reading "I'm not saying it was aliens"
Thursday, December 6. 2012
Numbers floated by. Daniel leaned back and the lights flickered. A tiny pool of light in a sea of dark office. He picked up his cards and began shuffling them. There was nothing else to do. 31%. The computer had slowed down after five. It only worked eight hours a day, just like his co-workers. 31% The computer was calculating Zeno's paradox apparently as every percent took twice as long as the last. Daniel drew a card. Seven of spades. Don’t forget your shovel if you want to go to work. He remembered lying in bed, wondering if he should call in sick this morning. Life was full of little regrets like that. He drew another card. It was also a seven of spades. Daniel sighed. He remembered the exact moment when his boss had appeared. It had been 4:59, against a brilliant red dusk. Red sky at night, prepare for blight.
“Hey, Daniel, how are you?” Steve had a nasty habit of creeping up on you, especially when you were reading the sports fixtures.
“Just finished those projections for next week,” Daniel said, minimising the web browser.
“Yeah, about those,” Steve said.
Daniel made a face at the computer. Then turned around with what he hoped was an innocent curiosity.
“Yes, actually. Turns out they didn’t want to include the Northwind figures,”
Daniel made a show of sighing “Oh boy. I’ll have to start again,”
“My bad, seriously. I should have checked with them before telling you to go ahead,”
“No problem, Steve. I can turn them round in time for next week,”
Steve’s face twisted, like a kid swallowing bad medicine. “That’s… the other problem,”
Continue reading "Rat Race"
Sunday, December 2. 2012
What to say of refuse? It is inevitable and ineffable. It is the closure of the universe. It is the focus of Deponia.
But is it any good? Well I found out inside.
Continue reading "The trash heap: Deponia"